Don't Bite into a Horse Chestnut!
Knox County —
Did some other kid talk you into biting into the soft center of a horse chestnut when you were a kid? I hope not. They are inedible and very bitter (or so I’m told). They are not at all like the chestnuts they sell warm on the streets of New York City.
Wikipedia tells us that the actual name of the Horse Chestnut tree is the American Chestnut. It comes from the beech family and evidently the species was devastated by the chestnut blight, a fungal disease. Very few exist in their historical ranges they say, the most being in northern lower Michigan, whatever that means.
The South End had its share of our favorite tree. We all hoarded the shiny nuts we peeled out of their spiny pods. Sometimes we made play pipes out of them, or strung them into bracelets with string. I was always sorry they weren’t edible because otherwise they were totally useless. I don’t even think the squirrels ate them, preferring acorns instead.
I’m not sure there are any “Horse Chestnuts” left in Rockland or the South End. If they have in fact disappeared I feel sorry for the kids who will never know what a horse chestnut is and how much fun it is to collect them in the fall. For those of you who remember them, here’s my homage to them.
To a Horse Chestnut Tree
My small hands have tiny cuts from your spines
As I free your shiny treasure from within your shell.
You make me work for my reward.
Look how shiny you are, but what do I do with you?
A bitter taste assails my tongue
If I dare bite into you.
Yet I hoard your special nuts—
Show them off to my friends
As we sit in a circle amongst bright fall leaves
We compare and sometimes share
Our Fall Treasure—
The Mighty Horse Chestnut!
Enjoy the fall and see the regular blog for Maine foliage sites with maps and updates on the foliage season.
Thanks for listening.